VA Republicans block judicial nominee because he’s gay

While the Republican Congressional caucus seems to have figured out that being perceived as anti-gay is a loser for them, the extremists with which the Republicans have filled the ranks of their state houses continue to act like the anti-gay bigots they are. Consider this vote against an openly-gay prosecutor in the wacky state of Virginia:

Virginia’s Republican-controlled House rejected the judicial nomination of a gay Richmond prosecutor early Tuesday morning, plunging the critical swing state into the middle of the national debate about the civil rights of gay Americans.

The prosecutor, Tracy Thorne-Begland, a former fighter pilot and Navy officer, failed to garner the majority of the 100-member House of Delegates that was required to secure the judgeship. Lawmakers in the House of Delegates voted 33 to 31 to support him, with 10 abstentions.

The vote, which took place after 1 a.m., after a number of delegates had already gone home, took lawmakers by surprise. Mr. Thorne-Begland’s candidacy had broad bipartisan support from the Courts of Justice Committee, which is charged with vetting judicial appointments, and many lawmakers assumed his appointment would be approved. Indeed, seven Republicans voted in favor of his candidacy.

But Mr. Thorne-Begland, 45, ultimately failed to draw the votes after lobbying from both the Family Foundation, a powerful conservative group that opposed his candidacy, and conservative lawmakers, who argued that his past indicated that he would press an activist agenda from the bench.

The rejection comes as the country is in the midst of a roiling debate over same-sex marriage that has placed the civil rights of gays and lesbians in the national spotlight. Last week, President Obama said he supported same-sex couples’ right to marry, a position that set off a frenzy of political soul-searching as Republicans and Democrats staked out their own positions. States, meanwhile, have been passing legislation banning same-sex marriage, most recently North Carolina last week. Others, including New York and Maryland, have passed laws legalizing it.

Mr. Thorne-Begland disclosed his sexual orientation as a naval officer nearly 20 years ago during an appearance on ABC’s “Nightline,” in a challenge to the military’s ban on service by homosexuals. He was discharged honorably from the Navy after the disclosure, reinstated by a federal court, and then discharged again under the subsequent “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He also served on the board of Equality Virginia, a gay rights nonprofit group.

“The only conclusions I can come to is that he was not supported because he was gay,” said Delegate Charniele Herring, a Democrat who voted for him.

But conservatives, including Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican from Prince William County, argued that those aspects of his biography meant that he would not be able to be impartial, and might even engage in activism, if he became a judge. Mr. Marshall, together with several fellow Republicans from his county, a number of them former military men, led the charge against Mr. Thorne-Begland on Tuesday morning.

Would not be able to be “impartial,” and might even engage in “activism.” If only he were active in the Federalist Society, or his partner was a lobbyist for the Tea Party, no one would say a peep. (You know, like Tony Scalia, Clarence Thomas or Sam Alito?) I just can’t remember any prominent Republicans expressing any concern about impartiality, or judicial activism from this gang but since we’re now in Bizarro World, it’s very possible that I blinked, and missed it.